Attorney Claims Unclean Hospital Leads To Patient Illness

By Frances Kuo

(LOUISVILLE, June 30th, 2004, 5:55 p.m.) -- A Louisville attorney has filed 20 lawsuits against an area hospital alleging unclean conditions that led to patient infections. WAVE 3's Frances Kuo reports.

The suits were filed by attorney Joseph White in Jefferson Circuit Court today. Sixteen of the suits alleged that the plaintiffs caught a highly infectious bacteria commonly known as MRSA, or staph, during their stay at Jewish Hospital. All the suits cite hospital stays in mid- to late-2003.

Jewish Hospital President Hank Wagner categorically denies the charges. "We want to state clearly that the allegations in the lawsuits against Jewish Hospital are false."

Jewish Hospital representatives reacted swiftly, bringing in an independent consultant from the Centers for Disease Control. That consultant says the infection control department at Jewish "is doing an outstanding job."

The plaintiffs in the 20 lawsuits disagree, and used photos taken inside the hospital to bolster claims that hospital was poorly cleaned, and that led to staph infections.

Five of the plaintiffs died. All five had contracted MRSA, according to the suits.

Joseph White, the attorney for the plaintiffs, says "some of them died following acquiring the infection, some have been involved in the need for lingering care."

Jewish Hospital officials say staph infections there are lower than the national average, and are common in hospitals everywhere. Officials add that such infections are sometimes hard to combat because of a patient's overuse of antiobiotics, an issue they addressed at a press conference last week.

Representatives gave us a tour through the hospital Wednesday, pointing out wash stations as part of the hospital's standard for cleanliness. But White, who represents clients in four other lawsuits based on the same allegations, says more people may come forward.

"These infections have been involving patients from several years back."

The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for punitive damages and a jury trial. Jewish Hospital has 20 days to respond to the lawsuits.

Online Reporter: Frances Kuo

Online Producer: Michael Dever